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And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe

4.42  ·  Rating details ·  347 ratings  ·  102 reviews
A murdered movie star reaches out to an unlikely fan. An orchard is bewitched with poison apples and would-be princesses. A pair of outcasts fail a questionnaire that measures who in their neighborhood will vanish next. Two sisters keep a grotesque secret hidden in a Victorian bathtub. A dearly departed best friend carries a grudge from beyond the grave.

In her debut collec
Paperback, 208 pages
Published April 14th 2017 by JournalStone
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Sadie Hartmann
Mar 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scream-mag
Review originally published in SCREAM Mag issue 61 July/Aug 2020

I’m a huge fan of short story collections in the horror genre. For me, it’s the best way for me to see what an author has to offer. Typically, one collection will have several stories with a wide range of style and substance. After a particularly delicious collection, I’ll desire to seek out more and buy a novel. If the collection wasn’t a successful introduction, spending more time with that author won’t be a huge priority. Very ef
Oct 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most consistently creative story collections I've read this year, second only to The Secret of Ventriloquism by Jon Padgett. Every story here is inventive and original, whether conceptually or in the way they're presented. I went into this book expecting a scary story collection that I could jump into during my Horroroctober reading, but this collection is less horror and more of a compilation of dark fairy tales and tragic magical realism, all written in gorgeous, passionate ...more
Eddie Generous
Apr 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Unnerving Magazine Review
This is another of those rare instances where I shall bury some my enthusiasm for the sake of professionalism. But first, And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe is absolutely fucking incredible.
There's an I-can't-quite-put-my-finger-on-it feeling to most of the stories when it comes to pinning down a genre. The collection opens on a dark fantasy. It’s avian, it’s weird, it’s heavy, enveloping.
As far as result is concerned, little changes with the second story, swap th
Phillip Smith
Jun 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent collection. Gwendolyn Kiste is an absolute magician, weaving dark fairy tales that cut so very deep. Her writing is poetic, and I found myself easily enthralled with her twisted worlds. This makes me even more excited to read The Rust Maidens.
Mike Thorn
Gwendolyn Kiste bookends her short story collection And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe with two pieces written in the second-person. At first glance, the device might appear to work toward a tone of urgency, or a forced closeness between reader and text (and it does both of these things), but the technique works on several other registers, too. Both of these stories, “Something Borrowed, Something Blue” and “The Lazarus Bride,” undergo a complicated study of otherness and self-dissociation ...more
Leo Robertson
Aug 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
A stellar collection of shorts that fans of Bradbury and Jackson will want to snap up immediately!

Kiste is killing it—get involved :)
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
In this moment, she is all things, and her jagged pieces fit into the curves of my jagged pieces, and the two of us, these broken girls, are whole for the first time.

This collection started a bit slowly for me but quickly climbed from good to great. Even though it is listed as a Stoker award finalist I wouldn't call this horror, at least not in the traditional sense, there are few real"squishy" moments but plenty of interesting/odd ideas that remind you of something otherworldly or ephemeral.

Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"Sometimes I've wondered if maybe I wasn't meant for this world. Maybe my job was to taste stars, but everyone got me off track."

And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe is now one of my favorite books I've read this year. This was an amazing collection, and every single story in here got 5 stats from me. This book has been on my TBR since it was nominated for a Stoker, and I can't believe it took me this long to read it. The stories in this book are gorgeous, dark, and haunting. I probably felt
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
***This review contains spoilers***

'And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe,' Gwendolyn Kiste:
“Something Borrowed, Something Blue”
The first story in ‘And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe,’ Gwendolyn Kiste’s debut short fiction collection, is a haunting tale about a woman whose womb is the origin of twelve birds’ births, and whose life both unravels and, surprisingly, comes full circle because of this strange affliction. There is a disconcerting feel to the events of the story, an almost Hi
Bill Hsu
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So this was a (rare) great discovery thanks to Black Static (#59 in particular). The title seems a bit overreaching; please overlook that.

4 stars is probably generous for me, with my reservations with some of the pieces. But the narrators' voices are usually rendered beautifully, and the prose is mostly witty and charming, a pleasure to chew over.

Some choice openings; from "Something Borrowed, Something Blue":
A yellow beak, the shape of a crescent moon, pricks through your abdomen, and you know
Audra (ouija.reads)
This is one horror collection that no shelf should be without.

I have been hearing a lot of love for this writer and this collection of stories, and it is completely justified. The hype is real, y'all! Go out and buy your copy immediately—no joke.

The stories felt in the tradition of Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber, with a mix of fairy tale elements like the twist on a poisoned apple story or the tale of princesses stuck in castles, some strangeness that could be read as metaphorical but also w
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
"We hold on to the memories we don't want, and we lose the ones we cherish."

2019 is going to be the year that I clear some space on my top bookshelf, which is reserved for my favorite reads. I need some room to include the work of Gwendolyn Kiste! Of all the short story collections I've read, this one moved me the most.

Kiste's writing pulled me in from the very first line of the acknowledgements, and it was a struggle to set this collection down from then on. Every single story in this book is
S.J. Budd
Mar 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've long been an admirer of Gwendolyn Kiste ever since I discovered one of her stories, Audrey at Night, in Sanitarium Magazine. She's had her work published in all the top magazines such as Nightmare, Shimmer, Lamplight, and Interzone and has such a unique gift for story telling.

So I was very excited to hear that she's about to release her debut collection with Journal Stone in April 2017.

I would describe the 14 tales in this collection as beautiful horror, enchanting like a fairy tale, spell
Aug 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Pull out your list making accoutrements, because this reviewer is about to GUSH. This darkly beautiful collection of short stories is exactly what I needed right now, and Kiste has now become another of my favorite authors. Write the name of this collection at the top of your TBR list, readers.

A huge thank you to all of my friends who kept bringing Kiste up whenever I talked about how my TBR was continually lacking in horror fiction by women. I know my friend Emily mentioned this collection rece
Rob Errera
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Gwendolyn Kiste has a wonderful way with words. In her hands they are beautiful and savage, comforting and terrifying, heart-wrenching and healing.
And Her Smile Will Untether The Universe contains some true gems, tales thick with atmosphere and murky mood. “Evening settles softly on the orchard like black tar dripping from the sky” and later, “the air tastes of nicotine and abandoned dreams.”
These stories are about dysfunctional families, twisted sisters, and haunted mothers and fathers. “The Cl
Christopher Payne
Mar 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: journalstone
A murdered movie star reaches out to an unlikely fan. An orchard is bewitched with poison apples and would-be princesses. A pair of outcasts fail a questionnaire that measures who in their neighborhood will vanish next. Two sisters keep a grotesque secret hidden in a Victorian bathtub. A dearly departed best friend carries a grudge from beyond the grave.

In her debut collection, Gwendolyn Kiste delves into the gathering darkness where beauty embraces the monstrous, and where even the most tranqui
Sean Thompson
Apr 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What captures me about Kiste's fiction is her ability to make the extraordinary seem downright mundane. That's not an insult: what makes her work so terrifying is that we can easily see ourselves as her characters, going through the bizarre and terrible events they have to endure in this collection.
This is dark, but beautiful, in the way all things analyzing life and death (and the often torturous stages in between), can often be. Yet there's a poignance to her characterization, and a wondrously
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
These stories are nothing short of devastating. They never go where you think but always end in some dark corner. There is longing and it is bittersweet. There is love but it is never enough. A pervasive oddity clings that is unlike anyone else's. These stories are cracked, damaged, twisted but not into the usual forms. There is especially effective use of fairy tale tropes and the 2nd person. Many of these tales are so striking I will not soon forget and still find myself thinking about. You ne ...more
Stephanie Wytovich
Apr 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This collection of stories made me feel like I fell down the rabbit hole into a dark, whimsical Wonderland shared by the Brother's Grimm. It was gorgeous, hauntingly beautiful, and told from a refreshing voice in the horror world. This was my first encounter with Kiste's work, but it certainly won't be my last. Count me a fan. ...more
Maria Haskins
Apr 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent collection of speculative short fiction. In each and every story, Kiste deftly pulls reality inside out, twisting our everyday world into unsettling tales that straddle the line between horror, dark fantasy, and the weird.

Wow, I absolutely adored this collection. Not since “Her Body and Other Parties” have I been this jazzed about a short story collection. It helps that both have a lot of the same underlying themes: feminist twists on fairy tales, ghost stories, the turmoil of motherhood, the dangers of being a girl, etc. I am definitely going to revisit this book again and again and it will absolutely be in my top 3 favorites I’ve read in 2019.

A few standout stories to me were definitely:
“10 Things to Know About
Robert Vanneste
Apr 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.0 - 4.5 . This is the best anthology I've read in a long time . Lyrical with a hint of darkness . ...more
Suz Jay
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
“We hold on to the memories we don’t want, and we lose the ones we cherish. Scientists should figure out a way to preserve happiness in a jar of formaldehyde, like that vivisected bullfrog we saw once at the Natural History Museum. Then we could smile all the time.”

This phenomenal collection consists of fourteen short stories, a mix of ones published in prestigious literary magazines and tales found only in this work. Each story serves up an emotional journey. My favorites include “The Clawfoot
Apr 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This collection is the first exposure I’ve had to Gwendolyn Kiste’s work, and if I can’t find her earlier works I will definitely be searching for her future work as it comes out. And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe is comprised of fourteen stories that show a familiar world with deep currents of bizarre beauty, pain, and sheer anomaly running through it that create a tapestry of weird horror unlike anything I’ve read before. I’m not going to give examples simply because it’s unique with ev ...more
Jun 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I’ve been a fan of Gwendolyn Kiste since first discovering her dark fairy tale, “All the Red Apples Have Withered to Gray,” in the online pages of Shimmer. I was delighted to see her first collection debut this spring. Kiste has a gift for braiding darkness with beauty, for finding the arresting image and evocative line. There are fiercely retold fairy tales in this collection, creeping horrors, a science-fiction dystopia, and--amidst the darkness and fear--glimpses of freedom and light. “All th ...more
Kevin L
Jul 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fantastic collection of short stories by Kiste. She has a gift for turns of phrase as well as telling rich stories in an efficient and impactful way.

I usually prefer novels over short stories, but I am fairly certain that I will revisit many stories in this collection again and again over the years. Highly recommended.

4.5 stars.
Steve Wynne
Jun 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Just a fantastic collection.

'The Tower Princesses' and 'The Man in the Ambry' were some of my favorites in here, but 'The Lazarus Bride' seriously f*cked me up, as it kinda hit really close to home about things going on in my life currently.

Best collection I've read in a long, long time. Can't wait for more.
Nemma Wollenfang
Oct 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am in love with this book, it’s wonderful – with a certain gothic flavour that caters to just my kind of dark fantasy. Unlike most collections I can’t seem to pick a favourite story. They’re all just so good. I highly recommend this book.
Kevin Lucia
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An amazing collection of speculative fiction that touches on surreal fantasy but never loses its grip on an all too tangible - sometimes painfully so - sense of reality (which sometimes happens with surrealism), making for a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience. Full review soon
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
That Which Endures

A wonderful collection of short stories that explore the nature and strength of bonds of love that tie us together. I very much liked the different styles used in the narration.
A collection I would very much recommend.
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Gwendolyn Kiste is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe, from JournalStone; the dark fantasy novella, Pretty Marys All in a Row, from Broken Eye Books; and her debut novel, The Rust Maidens, from Trepidatio Publishing. Her short fiction has appeared in Nightmare Magazine, Shimmer, Black Static, Daily Science Fiction, Interzone, LampLight, and Three-Lobed ...more

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